How to Make a Willow Whistle

With just a pocket knife and a willow tree, you can easily make an old-fashioned willow whistle. Try it!


  1. Image titled Make a Willow Whistle Step 1
    Find a willow twig that has no side branches. It should be less than an inch thick and have green bark. 8 inches (20.3 cm) is a good length. The ideal twig is straight, smooth, and round so it makes a perfectly shaped whistle.
    • If you can't find a willow twig that is 8 inches (20.3 cm) long, you can try to find a longer one and cut off 8 inches (20.3 cm) of it to make a whistle from. You can also cut off side branches if needed, although you may need a bigger knife.
  2. Image titled Make a Willow Whistle Step 2
    Carve a small notch into the twig, about a quarter of the length in.
  3. Image titled Make a Willow Whistle Step 3
    Cut a ring around the twig about two inches further in than the notch. Take care to cut only the outer layer of bark and not completely through the wood.
  4. Image titled Make a Willow Whistle Step 4
    Remove the bark. Wet the twig (all the way from the ring to the mouthpiece) with water and tap it gently with the handle of your knife so it loosens the bark. Then carefully twist and pull the bark off. Try not to rip or break the bark because you will need to put it back on the twig later. Dunk it in water to keep it wet and moist until you need it again.
  5. Image titled Make a Willow Whistle Step 5
    Make the notch deeper and cut it some more so that it extends down the length of the twig, pointing towards the end that still has bark on it. The length and depth of this notch is what changes the pitch of your whistle.
  6. Image titled Make a Willow Whistle Step 6
    Carve off a sliver of wood from the upper surface of the twig to make it flat.
  7. Image titled Make a Willow Whistle Step 7
    Slip the bark back on. Dipping the bark-less end of your willow into a glass of water first will help. Blow on the end with the notch!
  8. Image titled Make a Willow Whistle Intro


  • A dried out willow whistle can be revived by keeping it wrapped in a damp towel.
  • This also works with Basswood.


  • Be very careful with the knife. It may be small but it is still a knife. If you are a child, make sure to get help from an adult.

Things You'll Need

  • 8 inch (20.3 cm) willow twig
  • A pocket knife
  • Water

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